The Squeegie Man
I saw a young Indigenous ‘sqeegie’ man today, at an intersection obviously fallen on hard times. The rejection I watched him face in the rear view mirror broke my heart. People put their hands up in the dismissive motion when he was six feet from their vehicles. It really hurt my heart. To see him harshly rejected, over and over, based solely on his appearance. I have seen many other squeegee people and have never seen them turned down that hard. Almost always at least one person hands change out the window and has a kind word. For some reason I watch the interchange between them and the people in cars. I people watch. I witness how human nature plays out. My mother was profoundly deaf, and entertained herself like this. I learned from her to watch things play out. Observe the subtle exchanges between strangers.
I wondered why this particular young man was being rejected so harshly. Was it is black hair and dark brown skin? The fact that his coat had fallen half off and he ignored it, as he tried to drum up his thirty seconds of business between light changes? He had such a gentle face. He did not look burdened and hardened as often men in his predicament do. He had the face of an angel that had woken up on the wrong side of the tracks. There was a sweetness about his countenance. He was beautiful enough to paint, if I could paint portraits. And I recognized him from somewhere.
I watched as one after the other all the people in the cars rejected his advances. And I hurt for him. It wasn’t until I came across a quote from Mother Teresa that I knew why. “We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty. We must start in our own homes to remedy this kind of poverty’.
I don’t know what the people in the cars were thinking. That he was a threat? That they didn’t want to witness this level of harsh reality? There are hundreds of homeless in Victoria, said to be largely because the climate is easier to bear.
felt sad that I didn’t see him until he was past me, didn’t have change at the ready. He reminded me of a crow, had his eyes fixed behind my car, like most squeegee people, looking for the signs of someone rooting for change.
It wasn’t his obvious poverty that disturbed me, but the rejection he continually faced as he walked between the cars. And the fact that I didn’t have time to give him a kind word, greet him as a relative, and treat him with kindness and dignity.
He has been on my mind. He is somebody’s baby. Somebodys brother, uncle, son. I am going to have the change ready and my window down the next time I pass that intersection. I am going to be ready with my words. ‘Good morning, relative. Where are you from’? I know the answer. He is clearly Cree. I am usually right, but will still ask the question.
And, I will put tobacco down for him because everyone, yes everyone needs a prayer, especially angels with squeegees in dirty clothing.